Bobby Drake stands with his arms folded in front of his chest and a brow raised. "When did you last eat? Or slept for that matter?"
A noncommittal grunt answers from deep within the Beast's lab. "Some time... I think?"
Bobby rolls his eyes. "And I'm assuming you've neglected to shower as well. That would explain the smell down here anyways."
Hank, hefty with muscle and sporting unruly blue fur, emerges from the shadows of the X-Mansion's extensive lab. He grins toothily at his friend, ignoring the diss to his personal hygiene. "I've done it, Bobby." He raises one of his large paws, holding some round thing, roughly the size of a softball.
"Her name," Hank beams proudly and hands his invention to his friend. "is Alice."
Bobby raises an eyebrow at the spherical hunk of metal. "Huh," he tosses the object up, catches it and observes it's rough surface. "Is there a specific reason you've named it?"
Hank nods fervently. "Indeed. Alice is a portal, a cross dimensional portal. Fit with the ability to send travelers to other worlds, other universes!"
"Ah." Bobby grins and passes back Hank's pride and joy. "Alice in Wonderland. I get it."
"Precisely!" He moves to a nearby desk and wakes the computer back to life. "And, if my calculations are correct, all my efforts will be worthwhile."
Bobby scratches his chin. "Don't we already have a portal-maker?"
"Alice is travel size."
"Of course, how convenient." Bobby smiles. "And, though I'm impressed, I am offended that you've kept this thing from me."
"Alice is more than just a thing."
"Fine," Bobby rolls his eyes. "I'm offended that you kept your precious travel size cross dimensional portal from me."
Hank murmurs some indiscernible nonsense over his shoulder and keeps typing. Clearly he has filled his social quota for the day.
"Alright man," chuckling, Bobby makes to leave. "Try to eat something and get some -"
Suddenly Alice fritzes and frazzles and flashes a terrible white light, blinding the men. Hank topples back in his chair, falling hard to the ground with an "Umph!" and Bobby throws his arms over his eyes, trying to block the intense light and yelling curses at Hank for building the blasted thing.
A figure materializes before them, the blinding shine of Alice's malfunction haloing a physique. As the light dims, Alison Blaire stands in the doorway, still as Lot's Wife and pale as a ghost.
Hank gapes from the floor. "Oh my stars and -".
"Holy Hell!" Bobby swears. "What just happened?"
The Beast shakes his head and pushes himself to his feet. "I have no idea." He steps towards Alison cautiously. "Alison?"
"Ali?" Bobby comes to stand next Hank.
Hank waves a hand in front of Dazzler's blank face. He takes a mental inventory of the injuries she has sustained. Mostly she looks malnourished, with periorbital dark circles under her eyes and hollow cheeks.
She makes no move and stares at nothing.
Hank frowns and mutters, "This is quite concerning…"
"I'll say," Bobby agrees.
"Alison?" Hank snaps his fingers near Alison's nose. "Can you hear me?" When no answer is given, he turns to Bobby.
"Dude, she and Longshot have been gone for over a year."
"Indeed," Hank nods, tapping a furry finger against his chin in thought. "Alison, where is Longshot?"
"Longshot…" Alison's voice is empty and distant.
And then, "Oh my God!" she gasps, and her hands fly to her mouth as sudden dawning comes upon her. "Longshot!" Quickly, Dazzler whirls around to see nothing but the fried Alice.
"No!" She screams. "Oh my God! No! No! Longshot!" Tears stream down her cheeks and her knees give out. Quickly, Hank grasps her by the elbows and holds her up. "Longshot! No, Longshot! "
Hank gives Bobby a worried look. "Call for help!"
Frantically, Bobby scours Hank's desk for his commlink. When the device is finally found, he shouts into it. "Rogue! Are you there? Do you copy?"
From the other side comes the sweet, "Hi yah Sugah. What's got yah in a -"
"Rogue get your ass down to Hank's lab right now!" Bobby yells. "Dazzler just came blasting through a freaking portal Hank apparently built and we need you here!"
"Ah'm on my way." She clicks off and Bobby quickly returns to Hank and the wailing Alison Blair.
"Ali," Bobby steps in front of her, allowing Hank to begin preparations in the medbay. Gently he places his hands on her shoulders. "Look at me. We're gonna get Longshot back - wherever the hell he is. But -"
"No!" Dazzler shakes her head. "No, you don't understand! They killed him! They killed my husband!" She shrieks with raw, horrendous pain and clings to Bobby's shirt for stability.
"Hey, hey." Bobby cups her face with his hands, forcing her to look at him through her hysteria. "Everything's gonna be okay. Hank is gonna fix this portal thing - again, thanks for telling me about it, bro."
Hank glares at him in passing, cradling an armful of medical equipment. "Now is not the -"
"Dude, I'm down here practically every day with you and you hide that thing from me? How?" Bobby frowns.
"Now is not the time, Robert!"
Wailing, Alison collapses against Bobby's chest, hyperventilating through her sobs. He wraps his arms around her, one hand stroking her long blonde hair in an attempt to soothe her.
"What's goin' on?" Rogue bursts through the lab doors.
Hank waves her to follow him. "This way! Help me in the medbay."
Glancing at the other two briefly, Rogue trails after him. "Is she okay? What happened?"
As Hank relays the absurd event, Bobby calmly speaks to Alison. "It's going to be alright. Can you walk?"
She doesn't respond and only continues to cry and moan.
He bends to scoop her up and carries her to the medical wing attached to the laboratory. Hank readies a defibrillator as Rogue hangs a bag of IV fluids. Gently, Bobby sets Alison on a bed and crouches in front of her. He pushes back her blond hair and lifts her chin, making her eyes meet his. "Ali."
Her bottom lip quivers. "He's-he's."
Bobby shakes his head. "I don't believe it, Ali. Longshot's a survivor."
"What happened, sugah?" Rogue asks softly. She sits next to Alison and wraps an arm around her.
"They killed him," Alison whispers. "I know they did."
"Who?" Bobby prompts. "Mojo? Did you see?"
She bites her trembling lip. "I-I," her breathing hitches.
"Hey," Bobby places a hand on her knee. "Ali, we're going to take care of you. And we're going to get Longshot back. But you have to tell us what happened."
Rogue nods. "We just want tah help, Daz."
Hank, satisfied with his preparations, comes to stand behind Bobby. He looks down at Alison with a sad expression. "Perhaps we shouldn't prompt her right away. Trauma is damaging. And if Longshot is dead -"
"He's not," Bobby is firm. "There's no way."
Alison cries and hides her face in her hands. Rogue hugs her to her chest and shoots a worried look at the men.
"Ah think Hank's right. We shouldn't press her. Let her sleep, get her some food and water. Let Hank run his tests and make sure she ain't have anything serious happen to her."
"I can assure you," Hank frowns at the woman weeping in front of him. "Something serious has indeed happened to her."
Alison wakes with a terrible headache. And a catheter in her wrist. She groans and finds her entire body ridiculously sore from exertion. Instead of attempting to rise, she chooses to lay as still as possible.
Her eyes ache. Small wonder, considering the endless river that flowed from them the night before.
Oh, Longshot, a lump forms in her throat. I'm so sorry.
Fresh tears come and fall and soak her pillow. She doesn't care. Her soul has shattered. Nothing matters anymore.
"Ah, good morning my dear," Hank's low voice gently travels through the medbay. He is blurry through her eyes, thanks to her crying. She doesn't care. Let him see her sorrow. He only smiles softly at her. "Would you like a shower?"
She stares at him, nearly gawking at his suggestion. A shower would not clean her from her guilt. It would not wash away the sorrow she felt. A shower would not bring her Longshot. She says nothing and turns away from him.
Her bed sinks with Hank's weight as he sits at her feet. "I see." He sighs and gently pats her calf. "I shan't push you, Alison. But if there is anything that I can do to make matters better, please don't hesitate to say so."
"Can you bring my husband back from the dead?" Her voice is rough and soft.
A moment passes before Hank answers. "It is unwise to play God."
Ali scoffs and wipes at her eyes. "God can fuck off for all I care. He took my husband for no reason." She refuses to look at Hank and instead glares at the wall before her. "Longshot was a good man. He was leading slaves to their freedom. Why would God take away someone with such a noble cause?"
"Perhaps Kurt could answer more eloquently than I, but," Hank pauses, gathering his thoughts. "I do believe -"
"I don't care about your beliefs," Alison cuts him off. "I'm not in a mood to discuss the greater good or God's mysterious plan for mankind."
Hank nods. "Right. Of course. Shall I -"
"I don't care what you do. I don't care about anything anymore." She shuts her eyes and breathes deeply.
He stares at her sadly, unsure if there is anything he could say to ease her torment. "I am truly sorry, Alison." He rises and leaves her to her tears.
She doesn't know how long she slept the second time. She doesn't care.
Rogue watches her out of the corner of her eye as she and Bobby speak with Hank across the room. She can't bring herself to care. They can talk about her until the sun gives out. It is nothing to her.
"Hey Daz," Rogue approaches her warily and reaches a gloved hand out to tuck loose strands of hair behind Ali's ear. "Think we could give yah some breakfast?"
Ali blinks, frowns, and rolls over.
Bobby stands on the other side, hands stuffed in the pockets of his denim jeans. He offers her half a smile. "I make pretty good smoothie bowls. If yah want one."
She can practically hear Rogue's eye roll. "Anyone can make a smoothie bowl."
Bobby crouches down to meet Ali's face. "You gotta eat, Al."
She shuts her eyes and tunes him out. If she ignores him, he will disappear and she can retreat to the haze she's been living in. She can fill her head full of thoughts of Longshot and the life they had and could have had before...before…
"Ali," Bobby rubs her arm. "C'mon. You gotta get up."
If she keeps her eyes shut...if she pretends she's not here...she can...can…
She doesn't register that she's crying until Bobby gently wipes a tear away with his thumb. She opens her eyes to see him staring at her sadly. Rogue and Hank stand behind him with concerned expressions.
"Talk to us, please." Rogue's voice cracks, as if she can't handle what she's seeing.
Ali wants to glare; they shouldn't waste all their fretting on her. She's still alive, afterall.
"C'mon," Bobby takes her by the arms and hoists her up to sit. "I'm not watching you waste away."
She rests her head back against the wall, not bothering to put up a fight. She sighs and closes her eyes.
"I'll make some tea," Hank suggests.
"Coffee," Ali mutters.
There's a smile in his voice, "Coffee. Anything else?"
Hank leaves for the kitchen. Ali doesn't speak until he's returned and she's taken a long drink from her steaming brew. She looks down at her mug and considers remaining mute. But the others are looking at her expectantly and if she doesn't say something she's sure they'll snap with worry.
Quietly, she speaks. "They called him the Fallen Messiah."
Her hands shake as she grips the mug tighter. The others wait patiently, sympathetically.
"We'd nearly succeeded." She sniffles and wipes at her eyes. "The rebellion. We were so close. L-Longshot," she struggles to say his name. "He had planned it meticulously with Quark and the others. They'd called it the 'Final Act' and were so sure it was flawless. Luck was on our side, afterall. And what motive is more pure than wanting to free slaves?"
She looks up from her mug. "It took months to execute. Longshot refused to run a risk and went into hiding outside of the city, living in caves with a handful of rebels. He-he," she sniffles. "He wouldn't let me stay with him. He said Mojo was looking for him, not me. And he couldn't bear it if I were caught. We were separated for weeks at a time, only seeing each other briefly when I would come with a small party providing supplies. We smuggled what we could to them. Food, bandages, blankets. And anything that could be rigged to explode."
She remembers the way his clothes hung off his body like tattered rags and the dirt that clung to his skin. His voice had grown hoarse and she could hear wheezing in his lungs as he breathed. But he had a fire burning in his blue eyes like she had never seen before. And so Alison didn't prod him about his health or if he was sleeping enough or eating at all. They were in the midst of a war and she knew his focus had to be contained to the objective.
"And then," Alison shuts her eyes tightly and bites her bottom lip. Her friends watch with concern and pity, waiting for her to gather the strength to continue. "The Spineless Ones found us."
The room is silent around her. It's then that she remembers the aspirin and takes it, following the pill with a swill of hot coffee. She settles back against the pillows. "A small group of us gathered in the sewers. Longshot gave commands while Quark handed out the guns I helped smuggle to them. I remember being so...proud. I was ready to fight for my husband's home, his people. I wanted...I wanted to prove myself to them, to-to him."
"There was nothing to prove," Hank frowns down at her.
Alison meets his eyes. "To me there was. Longshot, he is - he was - so selfless, so incredibly selfless. And I just...I wanted to help. I just wanted to help. And then..." she shudders. "We heard them. How many, I'll never know. But the sound of their snorting and howling and growling was enough."
"Warwolves?" Rogue whispers.
Alison nods, no longer bothering to control her shaking. "We had no choice but to run. If Mojo's pack found us...if-if he got to Longshot."
Bobby gently grabs her hand and gives it a squeeze. "It's good that you ran. It was the right thing to do."
Alison shakes her head. "Longshot wouldn't leave. He ordered everyone out and said he'd rather die defending his wife and his people before he ever let Mojo have any of us." Her tears fall again and she did not bother to wipe them away. "He demanded Quark to take me out of the sewers. I-I should have stayed with him."
"No Daz, honey." Rogue sits next to her and wraps an arm around her shoulders. Alison leans into the hug. "He wouldn't have wanted you hurt."
"I should have fought with him! My powers would have been more than enough to fend off the warwolves." She continued. "I begged him but he wouldn't listen!" She pants and grows hysterical as she recalls her final moments with her husband. "I-I don't - I don't understand why!" She grips Rogue's sleeve and looks from Bobby to Hank. "Why would he - why would -"
"Because he loved you, Ali," Bobby answers softly. He offers a small smile and takes her hand in his. "He loved you so much. He wasn't going to put you in harm's way. Ever."
"But I was part of his rebellion!" She yells. Anger grows in her core. "His entire planet was at war, damn it! I knew what I was getting into!"
"We know," Rogue runs a gloved hand up and down Ali's arm. "And he knew. But sugah, Ah think Longshot was always gonna send yah off. He ain't the type to let others fight his battles."
Alison wipes at her eyes and looks away from them.
"Come with me," She begs. Her hands find his and she brings them to her heart. "We can leave this place. We can go back to New York, to the X-Men."
He frees a hand and cups her face. His smile is sad as he strokes her cheeks with his thumb. "My people deserve their freedom. I can't abandon them."
"Don't send me away, Longshot. Please." Her eyes are blurry with tears. This is the end, her gut tells her. This is where he will die. In the bottom of a damp sewer, a pack of warwolves feeding on his corpse. "Let me help you."
"Alison…" His voice breaks. Gently, he lowers his face and presses his lips to hers. His kiss is soft and sad and she can't help but grip his jacket and press herself against him. She can taste her own tears. She can feel him shake. And when he pulls away, she feels her heart shatter. "You must go. Follow Quark out of the tunnels and hide yourselves in the shadows of the city. Make your way to Arize at the edge of the forests. He'll help you get home. I'll hold off Mojo's dogs as long as I can."
"Quark," Longshot commands. "Take her out of here."
"What?! Long-" she's hauled away by Quark's strong arms wrapping around her middle and yanking. "No!"
"Come on!" The ram-man grunts. "Don't fight it! You'll only make it harder for him!"
Alison struggles in his grasp, finds her footing, and tries to run back to Longshot. "We can't leave him!"
"If we stay, we're as good as dead! You think he wants that? To see his wife ripped to shreds by those beasts?!" He grabs her wrist and tugs her along while he sprints.
She nearly trips, but Quark snaps her back upright and pulls her down the sewer tunnel. She looks over her shoulder and sees Longshot standing, his back to her, knives held between his fingers. He's ready. He's waiting.
"My lasers!" She yanks again. "My lasers can take out the whole lot of them!""Girl, you shoot and you blast us all to Hell. You wanna bring down the entire city on us? What good'll that do? What good is this rebellion if you kill everyone?"
At least they'll have their freedom, she thinks.
"My heart was pounding. I felt so guilty," Alison whispers, her eyes far away, seeing what the others could not. "I left him. I knew he was going to die. I felt it."
A fight. She can hear a fight. Growls and snaps and barks and grunts and yelps and swearing and explosions and shrieks. She can't tell which are Longshot and it makes her stomach drop, her head swirl, and her heart scream in agony.
"We have -"
"We're not turning back." Quark barks at her.
"But we could -"
"I got orders."
"From my husband!"
"Look," Quark whips around a corner and yanks her wrist to follow. They stop, backs against the cement wall and Quark bends down to bring his face to hers, glaring at her. "You're not listening. He. Doesn't. Want. You. There. And he knew you'd be like this. That's why he appointed me as your guardian."
Alison frowns and clenches her fists. "I don't need a guardian!"
"Ugh," She scoffs. "Asshole." She turns and makes to leave. But again, he reaches for her, grabs her shirt collar and pulls her back. "God! Don't choke me, you fucking -"
"You go back there and I got no choice but to follow you. And I ain't about to let Mojo's dogs drag me back to slavery." Again he grabs her wrist, holding tightly. "You're coming with me." He moves passed her and peers around the corner to survey the tunnel they'd just ran down. Echos of fighting float towards them, too jumbled to distinguish who still lived.
"Come on," Quark mutters. "There's a way out up ahead."
Not a second later, a flash of light nearly blinds them both and then a laughter follows and sends chills through Alison. Spiral stands before them, a sickly grin spread across her face. Of her six hands, four hold weapons - two daggers, a nunchuck, and a sword.
Without hesitating, she swings at Quark with her nunchuck. He ducks and leaps back, shoving Alison behind him.
Ali's heart somehow soars and clenches. She knows that voice. She whips around to see Longshot sprinting towards them.
"Alison!" He shouts again. He's limping. Was he bleeding too? And were those…
"No," she trembles, seeing the pack of warwolves chasing after him. He'd tried to escape, thinking Quark had gotten her to safety and he could turn and save his own life. But they weren't out of the tunnel yet. And Spiral had found them. And Longshot was being hunted by monsters.
"Longshot!" She cries and rushes towards him.
He's frantically waving his hand. "Go! Go! Get out of here!
A warwolf makes a leap and snaps at Longshot's heals, barely missing. The others follow it's lead and soon the pack is moving faster and jumping at him, snapping for his legs, his arms, his jacket, anything they can use to drag him down.
"I forgot everything then... All my training, everything…. I couldn't tear my eyes away from him."
Behind her Quark is grunting and swiping at Spiral with a dagger in one hand while he shoots at her with his gun in the other. He's quick for such a big creature, but Spiral is ruthless and cracks her nunchuck across his skull, sending the ram-man down to the ground with a thud.
"Alison!" Longshot screams, still too far. If she could just move faster. Why wasn't she moving faster? Her body feels like it's slugging through mud. Why though? Was this panic? No, she's an X-Men. She's been in so many battles that she's lost count, has nearly lost her life multiple times.
Her life wasn't her concern. Her husband's was.
"Come on," she grumbles. "Move! Come on, damn it!" If her legs would just respond to her brain. If she could just get -
He falls. A warwolf sinking its teeth into his calf and tearing at the flesh. Longshot yells in pain, rolls to his back, kicks the beast with his other foot and scrambles backward on his hands and one working foot. Blood seeps through his pant leg. A lot of blood...too much blood…
"And then I was here." She blinks and looks back at her friends, not bothering to wipe her tears away. "And I don't know why or how."
"My God, Alison," Hank speaks around a lump in his throat.
"Sugah," Rogue starts. "Ah'm so sorry. Ah can't even -"
Alison shakes her head and casts her eyes down to her lap. "Please leave." Her voice breaks. "I'd like to be alo-"
Bobby reaches across her bed, wraps his arms around her and pulls her to him. He tucks her head under his chin. He's solid, stable, something to anchor to.
And at this, Dazzler sobs.